On November 21, 2001, an enthusiastic band of Bronx River activists gathered at the Bronx Zoo’s Dancing Crane Café for the formal inauguration of the Bronx River Alliance. As NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern looked on, the organization’s new head, Alexei Torres-Fleming, proudly unveiled its “fish and leaf” logo symbolizing the interrelationship of water and land.
Although it grew out of a continuing legacy of community activism dating back to the formation of the Bronx River Restoration in 1974, the impetus for the Alliance got underway two years before with the creation of the Bronx River Working Group, coordinated by Jenny Hoffner and chaired by Alexei Torres-Fleming.
Although he was a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Commissioner Stern hadn’t been familiar with the Bronx River until the Bronx River Restoration’s Director Nancy Wallace invited him to a ribbon-cutting for a stretch of riverside parkland that volunteers had literally unearthed from beneath six feet of debris. Impressed with the river’s potential, Commissioner Stern declared 1999 to be “the Year of the Bronx River.”
On November 19, 1999, after watching a crane lift an auto body out of the river, he announced an ambitious plan for a “Bronx River Greenway” based on a proposal in the Bronx River Restoration’s Master Plan twenty years before. The greenway would follow the river from the NYC border to the East River, and would make the revitalized Bronx River “our version of the Mississippi.” Two years later, nearly to the day, the Bronx River Alliance was incorporated to carry out the work of the Bronx River Working Group.
Stephen Paul DeVillo